Thursday, April 21, 2011

What's in a name?

This is how grumpy I am: I refuse to make up a pseudonym to make the people at Starbuck's happy.  My problem is this: My name is Bumble.  Yes, Bumble. And please, don't ask me "Is that your REAL name" because that's just rude.  No, it's not my REAL name. I wasn't christened Bumble, but I have never been called anything other than Bumble for my whole life and hence, I am Bumble.  However, as fabulous and memorable and jolly as my name may be, it has its downside.  First of all, most people repeat it back when they hear it.  They say "Bumble?" in a questioning manner, as if saying "Excuse Me?" in the Southern Californian/Gossip Girl cadence.  Or they say "Barbara?" with their voice swinging upwards at the end.  They say Barbara so much that my husband calls me Barbara in public, which amuses him, and him alone, enormously.

My name SUCKS when it comes to ordering things. For example, just fifteen minutes ago I stopped into the lovely Sweet Butter for a coffee (and, truth be told, a slice of bread & butter pudding) and the woman serving me said, "What is your first name?"  Now, for most people this is a very easy question. For me, it involves elaborate lies, some soul searching and a huge dose of tamping down the effrontery.  Is it my age? Is it that I'm English, that I feel it's forward to ask someone you've never met before their first name?  How many years have I lived in Los Angeles, you may ask?  Surely, I would've gotten used to this? No, I haven't.  I don't know if it's bloody-mindedness or my poor stubborn heart or just a need to be different; I don't like being asked my name. I don't like squirming over the follow-up questions.  Even the people that try to be nice ("Oh, that's soooooo cuuuuute") I want to slap. Hard.  Today, due to much tutoring and encouragement from my daughter (Honor -- she has similar issues) I said, firmly "Emma. It's Emma."  I could hear her cheering in my head. ("Yay, Mamma! You did it!).  Emma is the name of one of Honor's best friends. It's a very good name. Short. Sweet. To the point.  No-one can mess up Emma.

I must practice this. I must practice saying "Emma" breezily and without blushing. (I'm a terrible liar; my face goes bright red every time.)  I must use a special technique to make it believable.

There is a wonderful sect of Brits who call each other, with great joviality, by their last names.  As in "Hallo Ward-o. How are you?"  It's sweet and dear.  To those people, Bumble was never an odd name. They'd either known someone called Bumble or they had a dog or a favorite pony named Bumble.  To them, Bumble sounds perfectly comfortable and cozy and plump and friendly. It's a friendly name isn't it?  But it's not a sexy name. It's not Raquel or Delilah or even Serena.  It's not a pretty name like Daisy or Lulu or Jonquil or Clare. And it's certainly not statuesque like Victoria or Elizabeth or Christabel (I was thinking of the Pankhursts.)  It doesn't make you think phwoooaaaar, exactly, does it?

But it's mine and I've become rather fond of it, in its own friendly way. However, if you ever meet me at Starbuck's, I'll be Emma, the one with the blonde, curly hair and the red face.


Jen said...

I *love* your name. While we've never met in person, it just seems like you: charming and friendly and unique, and makes me smile when I think of it.

Miss Whistle said...

Well, thank you Jen. That's incredibly sweet of you. Of course, you're dead wrong ;)! xx

Dawn Baillie said...

I love your name!

With an ordinary name like "Dawn" I also have issues.
People have no idea how to pronounce Dawn.
In NY I am Duaaaaaun, here Don. A few call me Dawno. And I get mail at my office delivered to Don Bailey, neither name correct.
My co-worker, Jeroen, from Holland, tells the shops his name is Jay, I just say Dee, and you can always try Bea!


Michelle Trusttum said...

Miss W - I so enjoyed your post. Don't you just love husbands who think they are TOO funny?

I read about an Australian woman with a numberplate Kikki - like you, her name since birth, although her birth certificate differs.

She has just run into a wall of trouble with the Australian traffic authority because it seems Kikki is highly offensive in Tagalog, a language of The Philippines.

Who knew?

I would love to have a name that was truly my own. Yours is perfect. x

M. Bouffant said...

Well, why in gawd's name would you name your child "Honor," then?

Although I certainly agree w/ you that it's none of their effing bees-wax what your name is. The wage-slaves don't care, their corporate masters who make them ask your name instead of simply assigning you a number or calling out "Double mocha latte no-drip whatever!" when your stuff is ready don't care either.

It's bullshit to make you think we are something beyond a coffee-drinking wallet to them. And we aren't, & the bullshit offends me.

P.S.: I've used an abbreviation of my legal name for about 40 yrs., & the baristas never get it right either. "Bob" & "Ed" are my new coffee-names.

Carren said...

Bumble is a lovely name. It's quite unusual too! :) I think you should be proud of it. :) But it's okay to use Emma for coffee purposes.

The Epic Adventurer said...

This made me smile -- I'm American, and in England I can never get used to people greeting me with "Are you all right?" It sounds so rude to me, like I didn't look all right... but I guess that's something I will just never get used to (I do occasionally still respond with a vey odd look, though, when caught by surprise)!

lucia said...

I'm also offended by strangers using my first name! (and I'm American). Even websites! So I'll re-register, switching my first and last names so they can't do that. I've recently started using my real name, which noone can pronounce - so I love the idea of a coffee name! But I think I'll use a different one every time and try out all the names I've always wanted and never had! Esmerelda, Gertrude, Tatiana....

Miss Whistle said...

@Dawn -- I LOVE the Noo Yawk pronunciation of your name. I'd run with that!

@Michelle -- Oh no, poor Kikki! Thanks for kind words. Hope all is well in NZ. x

@M.Bouffant -- you have a point, but at least Honor is a little more normal.... :) Please comment more. I love your hilarious cynicism!

@Carren -- thanks!

@The Epic Adventurer -- that's similar to the American expression "what's up?" My brother in law says it to me all the time and I never know the correct answer!

@Lucia -- Gertrude is fabulous. But then, so is Lucia.

Thanks for your comments.

-- Miss W xx

24 Corners said...

When I was younger I told people my name was Topaz...wait staff, taxi drivers....who ever, just for fun. My bff was Jade, that wasn't all that crazy of a name but she liked it. Bumble does sound delightfully British which I can't see a Starbucks 'barista' appreciating much. I wonder how Gwyneth Paltrow's little Apple is going to do, personally I think it's adorable, but who knows what will happen when she gets coffee in the future!
xo J~

btw - Honor is a lovely name.

Plain Jane. said...

i agree with jen and carren, my name is very plain and all awful things rhym with it..plain, not to mention jane doe! id much rather have a unigue and interesting name. Jane is so common. your post was quite funny though! miss you on fbk and best wishes to you. My name is so dull that actually when i go to starbucks, i make up different and more interesting names depending on how i feel just for fun. Oh,my middle name is Emma.

Elisabeth said...

I've been reading for a while, but have never commented. Today's the day!
I'm Elisabeth (but with unusual spelling - a different sort of problem) but for a while this past winter, Starbucks baristas would invariably - and at different locations - say, "Melissa??" I finally gave in and adopted it as my Starbucks name.
ps. love your name, and your daughter's.

Miss Whistle said...

@Elisabeth -- Elisabeth is my daughter's middle name, spelled with the 's' just like you, named after my Norwegian aunt, Baby. Melissa is a fabulous Starbucks name!

@24 Corners -- Topaz is too fabulous! It's so Great Gatsby. Love it!

@Jane -- At least you have an easy time of it at Starbucks!

-- Miss W x

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Although we have not been formerly introduced, may we venture to refer to you, or at least think of you, as Bumble since it is such a delicious name?

A long lost prep school chum was always known as 'Piggy' Crowther, on account of his parents having a pig farm. Now Bumble is entirely different, with very pleasant summerey associations.

Like you, we can identify with this unfortunate modern trend to use one's first name in all situations. But then we too are British.

We have signed as Followers, Miss Whistle!

Northern Snippet said...

This made me smile.Reminded me of a teacher at school named Mr Pigg who amusingly came back to school after the summer holidays called Mr Wilson, apparently his son was going to uni and he didn't want to lumber him with the name.Though of course your name isn't remotely piggy,Id love it.

Laura B said...

Hi Bumble I wanted you to know that I had such a nice Miss Whistle inspired evening the other day. At the end of a long day of moving, my boyfriend and I went and got Tacos al Pastor from Leo's catering truck and then we came home, slumped on the sofa and watched that magical Norwegian time lapse movie. It was the perfect ending to a long day.

CK said...

I am a Charlotte,always a candidate for misspelling, so at places that need a name,I give my middle, which is Jane. Mostly they get it right, though I've had "Jan" once or twice.